Based on its radius and mass — about 2.7 and 6.6 times that of Earth’s — Charbonneau and the other astronomers have calculated GJ 1214b’s density. It appears to be composed of extraordinarily deep oceans, surrounding a rocky core.
The planet’s atmosphere and precise composition remain a mystery, but it’s likely composed of many of the same elements found elsewhere at sites of planetary formation, in swirling disks of dust and gas that have yet to accrete: hydrogen, helium, nitrogen, magnesium, oxygen, carbon.
That list of ingredients raises at least the possibility of life. With an estimated temperature of 370 degrees Fahrenheit, GJ 1214b is an unlikely incubator (Earth’s toughest extremophile, a microbe that lives in deep-sea volcanic vents, maxes out at 284 degrees) but it’s not impossible.
The folks at Wired believe that GJ 1214b deserves a better name, and is taking suggestions and votes for a new name. Of course, Stephen Colbert is high on the list. I voted for Sagan. Link to story. Link to poll. -via Metafilter